Area Handbook for the Malagasy Republic

Area Handbook for the Malagasy Republic

Area Handbook for the Malagasy Republic

Area Handbook for the Malagasy Republic

Excerpt

Few recent works offering a comprehensive explanation of the various elements of Malagasy society have been published in the English language. The Area Handbook for the Malagasy Republic, therefore, seeks to provide a compact and objective exposition and analysis of the country's dominant social, political, and economic aspects. It is designed to give the reader an understanding of the forces operating within a developing country, which is regarded by France and various other nations of the world as an area of some strategic importance in the southwestern Indian Ocean. There remain, however, a number of gaps in certain information to which attention has been called. In producing the handbook, difficulties were encountered regarding the highly contradictory nature of numerous published source materials. The authors have attempted to exercise reasonable judgment in dealing with these contradictions. Moreover, before work on the handbook was completed, the Malagasy government collapsed, and power was given to a military regime. Many of the reform measures being initiated by the new government had not been sufficiently clarified to permit detailed treatment by the authors.

There are some misconceptions regarding the correct name of the country that serves as the subject of this handbook. Before independence in 1960 it was known as Madagascar; after achieving sovereignty its name became the Malagasy Republic. Nonetheless, since 1960 both names have been officially correct. The longer form is a more precise political designation, as the, republic consists of the large island of Madagasca r and numerous small offshore island dependencies. Because most of the people live on the larger land- mass, however, Madagascar remains the officially accepted short- form designation. Throughout this handbook the two names are used interchangeably, except in specific references to the Malagasy polity.

Similar misunderstanding is associated with use of the term Malagasy. As a noun, it denotes only the local people and their language. Its use in describing the country is correct only in adjectival form, as in Malagasy Republic.

The spelling of place names generally follows those established by the United States Board on Geographical Names in its latest available gazetteer, published in 1955. The spelling of other proper names conforms to current usage in the country or to the most authoritative available source. Currency conversion factors appear in the Glossary, which is included as an appendix for the reader's convenience.

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